The First Saturday in May may not mean the Kentucky Derby this year, but Oaklawn Park’s got the next best thing: the Arkansas Derby. After attracting an overflow field, it was split into two divisions. Sandwiched in between is the Oaklawn Handicap, one of the top races for older horses in the country. There’s fourteen races at Oaklawn on Saturday, the first of which will go off at 12:00 PM CDT. We’ll focus on the stakes.
ARKANSAS DERBY (DIVISION 1)
The first division of the Derby will go off at 5:29 PM CDT, and is scheduled as the eleventh race.
TOP PICK: 1, Charlatan. He’s not going to make anyone a lot of money. In fact, he probably won’t pay more than 10 or 20 cents for every dollar you bet on him. However, he’s going to be very difficult to beat. He’s undefeated so far, winning his two races very impressively. He hasn’t beaten any good horses yet, but there’s no one in here who he should be scared of. None of his opponents have won a stakes race this year. Further, he’s got speed from post position one, and there doesn’t look to be anyone who can go with him on the lead. If he gets loose, he’ll be impossible to catch.
SECOND CHOICE: 4, Gouverneur Morris. If you want to take a shot against the prohibitive favorite, this is the best horse to do it with. He raced wide throughout in the Florida Derby, and ended up fourth. This is a drop in class for him, and his third start off the layoff. His speed ratings have been very good, running in the 90s every time out. That’s consistently higher than anyone else in the field, except for Charlatan. The play in this race might be a cold Charlatan-Gouverneur Morris exacta.
A full gate of fourteen horses will race in Oaklawn Park’s top race for older horses. The post time for the 12th race on the card is 6:04 PM CDT.
TOP PICK: 12, By My Standards. His three-year-old season ended after an 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, but as a 4-year-old, he’s been excellent. Most recently, he won the New Orleans Classic at Fair Grounds, stalking the pace and drawing off to a three-length win. There’s a decent amount of speed in here, so he should be able to stalk the pace and draw off if the leaders get tired.
SECOND CHOICE: 4, Mr. Freeze. After an up-and-down campaign in 2019, he’s been impressive so far in 2020. He led almost the whole way in the Pegasus World Cup, before flattening out and finishing second. In the Gulfstream Park Handicap next out, he drew off to an impressive three-length win. There’s some concern about whether or not he can get the 1 ⅛ mile distance, but he’s got early speed and great late pace figures. I expect him to set the pace and hang around late.
ARKANSAS DERBY (DIVISION 2)
The second division of the Arkansas Derby drew a field of eleven, and will go off at about 6:43 PM CDT, as the 13th race.
TOP PICK: 5, Nadal. He turned in perhaps the best performance of any 3-year-old this year in the Rebel Stakes. He was badgered on the lead through a very fast early pace. While the rest of his rivals gave way after the blazing fractions, he hung in there and won by ¾ of a length. If he can slow it down in the early stages, he’ll have a big chance.
SECOND CHOICE: 4, King Guillermo: Partially owned by former MLB star Victor Martinez, he broke through last out, with a 49/1 upset win in the Tampa Bay Derby. Pretty much his whole case is built around that one win. In his only other start on dirt, he lost a weak race by eleven lengths. I’m willing to believe that he can build on that big race in Tampa Bay. It was his first start of the year, and his first start around two turns on dirt. He absolutely has the potential to improve from there.
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